The Cat Care You're Not Thinking About
You might be meeting your cat's basic needs, but what kind of cat care are you overlooking?
Cats may seem like low-maintenance pets, but proper cat care goes beyond putting food in their dish every day. Don't underestimate that cats have many of the same needs that humans have. Samantha Bell, a cat behavior and enrichment lead for Best Friends Animal Society in L.A., says, "Cats have social and emotional needs, as well. They are little emotional mirrors and can't help but reflect the emotions we are giving off. If we are feeling stressed or frantic, they will, too. Make sure to spend some peaceful, calm time with your cat every day."
A lot of cat care comes down to simply putting yourself in her paws. Here are a few things you may not have thought of:
- Give Your Cat Some Personal Space Up High
A cat's natural instinct when he's feeling stressed is to perch or hide up high. A few shelves will give your cat the territorial confidence he needs.
- Don't Let Your Cat Use Your Fingers or Toes as Toys
Dr. Camille DeClementi, the senior director of animal health services with the ASPCA, suggests, "Always use toys when playing and avoid encouraging play with human body parts by not picking up or petting a cat or kitten during or immediately after play time." Play with your cat without the risk of getting scratched or bitten.
- Don't Wait for the Litter Box to Stink Before Cleaning It
Cats have an excellent sense of smell and prefer using a clean bathroom -- just like you. If you're going to be gone overnight, hire a cat sitter to clean the litter box, or risk having your feline find an alternate bathroom.
- Remember that a Nappy Cat Isn't a Happy Cat
If your cat is constantly sleeping, she could be bored. Try engaging her with a cardboard box or paper bag to play with, or let her watch birds outside the window.
- Don't Just Save the Pet Carrier for Vet Visits
Make the carrier part of your cat's regular environment, advises Dr. DeClementi. "By acclimating the cat to the carrier, it is not only a lot easier to get the kitty into the carrier, but travel will be much less stressful because the cat is in something familiar," she says.
- Don't Compare Apples and Oranges
Cats are much further behind in domestication than dogs. "We need to realize that they still live in a world of 'predator/ prey' in their minds, and we need to respect that," explains Bell, adding, "We need to provide opportunities for them to 'hunt' and 'kill' toys so that they feel satisfied."
- Don't Let Your Cat Eat Like a Cow
Feed at feeding times. Dr. DeClementi stresses that, "Free feeding dry food can lead to very fat cats (which in turn may cause medical problems such as diabetes, arthritis, etc)." Be sure to vary your cat's diet.
- Keep Your Cat's Whole Health in Mind
Fluffy's feeding isn't the only possible cause of kitty obesity. Consider factors such as boredom and stress, and deal with those issues directly instead of automatically restricting your cat's diet, which can cause additional stress and compound the problem.
- Let Your Cat Scratch
Scratching and clawing aren't bad when they're done appropriately. Scratching allows them to shed their nail sheaths and leave their scent. Make sure that each cat in your home has his own scratchable object.
Embrace the special characteristics about cats that make them so unique, and make sure you understand the full spectrum of cat care needs for a happy, healthy kitty.
To learn about caring for a kitten, read Kitten Care: 12 Things to Know About Bringing Home a New Little Kitty.
Jennifer Stauffer worked on Capitol Hill in PR and legislation before becoming a mother in 2011. She now blogs about parenting and pop culture at Mom Tattles and is hopeful to publish her first novel soon.